#52Ancestors: At the Cemetery – Charles Schwenk


This is the tombstone for my 2nd great grandfather, Charles G. Schwenk, at Braddock Cemetery in North Braddock, outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The cemetery is also known as Old Braddock Cemetery and Russell Cemetery. Charles died on 12 November 1893 and was buried in the G.A.R. Plot.

Charles was born in or near Norristown, Pennsylvania and enlisted in the Civil War in July of 1861.[1] He served in the 82nd Pennsylvania Infantry in both Company A and Company C, and mustered out in July of 1865.[2] But this tombstone doesn’t seem to be him, right? “Schwek” and “Co. D” don’t seem to match my Charles.

After looking at many records, I do believe that this is my ancestor. First, the stone is newer, definitely not from 1893, as are many of the stones in the G.A.R. Plot. Below is Charles’ Pennsylvania Veteran Burial Card, which was dated 1935.[3]

The information found in this record confirms what I learned from Charles’ Civil War muster rolls and pension records. He mustered out of Company C on 13 July 1865 as a First Sergeant and died on 12 November 1893.

I have been unable to find Charles’ death recorded in a Pittsburgh death register nor an obituary in the newspaper.[4] All of his military pension records, as well as his wife’s widow’s pensions, report the same death date. In the 1890 Pittsburgh City Directory, Charles is living in Swissvale, right next to Braddock.[5] In the 1895 Pittsburgh City Directory, his wife Mary Ann is listed as the widow of Charles G.[6]

In addition, Charles’ wife Mary Ann was also buried at Braddock Cemetery (according to her obituary as there is no tombstone).[7] Many of Mary Ann’s family are also buried at Braddock, including her daughters, grandchildren and nephew.[8]

Lastly, I checked the roster of Company D of the PA 82nd Infantry, just in case there happened to be a “Schwek” veteran who died on the same date and was buried at Braddock. There is no Schwek on the roster.[9]

So with the information that I have compiled from his military records, as well as census records and city directories, I do believe that this is the tombstone for my ancestor and that a mistake was made on the stone a long time after his death. Sometimes when researching our family, we find errors or mistakes and conflicting information. Comparing all records and details can help us come to a conclusion about what is most likely correct.

There is much to write about Charles’s time in the Civil War. I wrote about his marriage to Mary Ann Burd, but there is even more about his life and family when he lived in the Braddock area. Stay tuned for more about Charles.

Have you found any tombstones with incorrect information?


[1] Muster-in roll dated 27 July 1861, Compiled Service Record, Charles G. Schwenk, Pvt. Co. A, and 1st Sgt. Co. C, 82nd Pennsylvania Infantry; Carded Records, Volunteer Organizations, Civil War; Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780s-1917, Record Group 94, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

[2] Ibid., Muster-out roll, Charles Schwenk, dated 13 July 1865.

[3] “Pennsylvania, Veterans Burial Cards, 1777-2012,” digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 March 2019), card for Charles Schwenk, date of death 12 November 1893; citing Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Cards, 1929-1990, Series 1, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau of Archives and History, Harrisburg.

[4] “Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh City deaths, 1870-1905,” digital images, FamilySearch (www.https://familysearch.org : accessed 14 March 2019); citing Allegheny County Courthouse, Pittsburgh. No entries found for Charles Schwenk, including variant surname spellings.

[5] R.L. Polk, compiler, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, City Directory (Pittsburgh: R.L. Polk and Co., 1890), 779; DonsList.net (www.donslist.net : accessed 29 March 2018), entry for Chas. G. Swank; citing University of Pittsburgh Digital Research Library.

[6] R.L. Polk, compiler, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, City Directory (Pittsburgh: R.L. Polk and Co., 1895), 892; DonsList.net (www.donslist.net : accessed 29 March 2018), entry for Mary, widow Chas. G.; citing University of Pittsburgh Digital Research Library.

[7] “Mother Dead,” The Monessen Daily Independent (Monessen, PA), 20 September 1927, p. 1, col 1; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 February 2015).

[8] Find A Grave, database and images (https://findagrave.com : accessed 15 May 2019), memorial page for Maine Swank Cubbage (1874-1938), Find A Grave Memorial no. 78041680, citing Braddock Cemetery, Braddock, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Also, Leah F. Cubbage (no. 78041679), George S. Cubbage (no. 78041678) and William H. Burd (no. 78041444).

[9]  “Pennsylvania in the Civil War, Infantry Regiments,” PA-Roots (https://www.pa-roots.com/pacw/infantry/82nd/82dcod.html : accessed 15 May 019).


Tombstone Tuesday – Lessons Learned from a Cemetery Visit

I stumbled upon this post from 5 years ago on my first blog … still good advice!

I was in Pittsburgh over Memorial Day weekend with my family and we decided to make a few cemetery visits. My oldest son had been on “cemetery hunts” with me before, but my husband and younger son were on their very first trip. We took a ride out to Prospect Cemetery in Brackenridge, Pennsylvania to look for a few collateral family members from my BURD family that I had found on Find A Grave.

We found the first two headstones fairly easily, but were having trouble finding the last couple of names. I guess I should also mention that even though it was the end of May, it was about 50 degrees, overcast and windy, and we had not packed for lengthy time outside (oops!). My sons and I ran back up to the entrance and found a map of the cemetery and confirmed that we were searching in the correct section. We went back, but could still not find anything.

My oldest son suggested that we go back to Find A Grave (thanks to smart phones!!) and search for the name of a neighboring stone that should be in the same section to make sure we have the right area … or that maybe there was a typo on the website. We confirmed a few names around where we should be, and still nothing. We took another step, and finally found two tiny stones in the grass — we could only see first names!! I wish I had taken a few more “before” pictures because the story continues!


Find A Grave lists a Margaret, Helen and “Annie?” Burd as being in this section. Well, we had found two of the three, so we were happy. I snapped the above picture and then started clearing out the grass along the edges to get a better picture. My younger son noticed some letters above Helen’s name, so we kept pulling away the grass. Guess what we found?? The two stones were actually one broken stone (or two pieced together) with all three names on it!


When we originally found the two little stones, all we could see were the whiter areas on the picture above – just the names and dates. We also found that the center name was not “Annie”, but “R. J. Jr.” These are the children of Robert J. Burd and Minnie Roenick, descendants of my third great-grandfather, Alex Burd.

By the time I went back to Find A Grave in June, a new photo had been posted with the full tombstone. So what did we learn on our cemetery visit?? Besides bringing lists of names, double checking online data, finding cemetery maps, and dressing warmly??  We learned that we should bring a small shovel and some gloves … you may need to dig out a stone or two along the way!